You've seen it illustrated with ticking watches, endless Fibonacci spirals and zombie-like submission, but is hypnosis real? And more importantly, is it helpful in treating mental health disorders like depression?
What Hypnotherapy Is
Hypnotherapy is when a clinical hypnotherapist induces hypnosis, or a trance-like state of focus and concentration, similar to the one achieved during meditation. During a hypnotic state, a patient will be more responsive to suggestion, and the clinician will instruct the client to turn their attention inward to assess situations, make changes or regain control in certain areas of their life. Hypnotherapy helps patients gain access to their own natural abilities to problem-solve and recover. It can be used for a wide variety of mental health issues, including anxiety attacks and substance abuse disorders. In this article, we asses its ability to treat clinical depression.
Are You Clinically Depressed?
About 15 million Americans suffer from depression at some point in their lives, making it one of the most common psychiatric disorders in Western society. While a single relatively short stint brought on by a sudden life event is categorized as normal, clinical depression is different. The sufferer doesn’t just experience one episode, but experience multiple. During these episodes, typically several of the following symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day:
- Feeling depressed or blue most of the day
- Anhedonia (loss of pleasure or interests)
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Eating too much or not enough
- Feeling agitated or having no energy
- Feeling worthless
- Mood swings
- Poor concentration and difficulties in thinking
- Thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicidal plans or suicidal attempts
If you’re dealing with these signs on multiple occasions, working with a therapist can help you stabilize your mental and emotional wellbeing by exploring various treatment methods, such as hypnotherapy or SSRI’s like Zoloft.
Could Hypnotherapy Work for You?
Research studies indicate that clinical hypnosis can be a valuable adjunct treatment with other therapies, especially cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal therapies.
The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis relates that hypnotherapy works three ways to alleviate depression:
- Exploring symptom management with basic, simple hypnosis (e.g.,, “You will no longer feel depressed over things you cannot control”)
- Teaching new coping skills (e.g., “Whenever you start to feel depressed, you will find yourself wanting to exercise”)
- Exploring the depths of the core issues that lead to depression (e.g., “You grew up in an addictive, angry household. Now, explore your feelings and thoughts related to this”)
From the examples, you may have noticed that empowerment is a basic tenet used in hypnotherapy to treat depression. You are guided into your subconscious mind in order to address all levels of thinking, particularly disordered thinking patterns. Negative thinking patterns are surfaced, then their root cause is explored before being exchanged with empowered thoughts.
This is achieved by helping you:
- Deal with emotions and unfinished core work, or the underlying causes of the depression
- Focus on symptom extermination/relapse triggers while increasing positive thinking
- Alleviate problematic physical symptoms, such as insomnia or overeating
- Focus technique for other clinical work and ways for relaxation, including being taught self-hypnosis
- Remember past positive experiences
- Develop positive coping skills
As with all counseling techniques, some are beneficial and some are not so helpful. Hypnotherapy could benefit from more research, but so far the research is promising and shows that it can be an effective method for treating depression. For those who suffer from depression, it is definitely an adjunct methodology that should be explored.